Kansai, Day 4: Kyoto (Central & Downtown)

We started our 4th day in Kyoto a bit later than the previous days since our first stop was just a few minutes away (walk) from our Airbnb – NIJO CASTLE (UNESCO)!

While walking along one side of the Nijo Castle, we realized how huge the castle ground was since it took us a few minutes to finish walking just one side. The huge stone walls looked imposing and surrounded by moat. At the time of our visit, the original entrance gate was under renovation so the entry point to the castle was different.

MARCH 9, 2017

We started our 4th day in Kyoto a bit later than the previous days since our first stop was just a few minutes away (walk) from our Airbnb – NIJO CASTLE (UNESCO)!

While walking along one side of the Nijo Castle, we realized how huge the castle ground was since it took us a few minutes to finish walking just one side. The huge stone walls looked imposing and surrounded by moat. At the time of our visit, the original entrance gate was under renovation so the entry point to the castle was different.

We paid ¥600 to get access to the castle grounds, and our first stop was the Ninomaru Palace, with the Karamon Gate as entrance. For me, this was best part of the castle because of the “nightingale floors”, a term used for the squeaking floors which resemble the bird’s sound. We read inside the palace that this served as a defense mechanism back then as it alerts the people inside the castle on presence of intruders.

Another thing we loved inside Ninomaru Palace were the artworks inside. Each part of the palace had a different theme for decorations – from walls to ceilings and fusuma-e. The most striking themes there were the tora (tiger), peony, bamboo, and simple drawing (in black ink only).

Too bad we were not allowed to take pictures and videos inside… so I highly recommend this to people and go see for yourself.

While walking to the next part of the castle, M spotted a sign that leads to another area. Surprise, surprise – a garden of ume (plum blossom) trees! Unlike the ume garden in Kitano Tenmangu, we got inside this one for free.

We went to Honmaru Palace afterwards but we were not able to enter since this is not regularly open to the public. We still strolled around the garden and we found an overlooking spot that had a good view of the moat and surrounding residential area.

After a bit of rest, we headed for our next destination. We thought that the first shrine we encountered was already the place but it turned out to be KAWAI-JINJA. What I found distinct in this shrine was the ema used – mirror-shaped + must draw face + write down request to be more beautiful! The god in this shrine specializes in women’s beauty, hence this concept.

Our actual destination, SHIMOGAMO-JINJA (Lower Kamo Shrine; UNESCO), was not far from here. It is considered by some to be one of the most beautiful shrines in Japan, which I agree with. It is also said to be one of the oldest Shinto shrines in Japan.

The walk going to the entrance was a bit long but we took our time since the view was really nice. We were surrounded by trees, and everything was just peaceful and quiet.

Inside the shrine, I easily spotted the Takiobashi bridge. It was beautiful especially since there were some ume that had already bloomed.

Another interesting thing I saw in this shrine was how the locals were dipping a piece of paper in a small stream of water. Not sure if what they were checking out was an omikuji. The contents are only available in Japanese so we did not try doing this anymore.

After going around the shrine, we went to NISHIKI ICHIBA since we had not yet eaten lunch and it was already past 2PM. The bus stop where we were waiting was quite confusing but we were lucky that there was a local who could understand English.

Nishiki Market is also popularly known “Kyoto’s Kitchen”. It is the largest traditional food market in Kyoto and it is a really long alley lined with mostly food stalls. Other stalls sell souvenirs and fresh ingredients (including meat and seafood).

We tried a lot of food here but I’ll let the pictures and captions do the storytelling. 🙂

Kawaii tofu doughnuts
Dashimaki tamago

I wanted to try tako tamago (baby octopus with quail egg inside) but I found out it is served cold so I passed on this. I also thought of buying matcha warabimochi but the line was long and I was already too full by the time I saw the stall.

We went home after eating to get some rest before our 9PM reservation in YAKITORI HITOMI. I found the place through some blog posts, who highly recommended it as a casual yakitori place that makes of almost every part of a chicken. The place is popular among locals and tourists so I had to ask help from our Airbnb host on reservation.

However, when we went inside, it seemed like they forgot about the reservation. Good thing though that there was a free table so we did not have to wait for long. Pictures and captions below show what we ordered. Also, the owner and staff were apologetic about our reservation to the point that the person serving our table kept on saying “sorry” and “gomenasai” every time he would go to our area. The owner also gave us free food – 1 stick of chicken meat with perilla and 1 stick of wings per person.

Almost every part of a chicken can be ordered

Tsukune (chicken meatballs) — one of the best dishes we ordered! Got sold out fast!!!
Processed with VSCO with a6 preset
Duck meat — soooooo good!!!!!
Chicken skin — sinful but really, really yummy!!!

We were the last customers to leave so we had a bit of conversation with the owner. This also gave us the opportunity to personally give our compliment to the chef/owner. All of the food we ordered tasted really great! What a great way to cap off our last night in Kyoto. 🙂

Kanpai!!! These are called Shochu Highball 🙂

 

LINKS TO OTHER KANSAI REGION / JAPAN 2017 POSTS:

Japan, Day 0-1: Kyoto (Higashiyama Area)

Japan, Day 2: Kyoto (Arashiyama)

Japan, Day 3: Kyoto (Fushimi, Northern Higashiyama)

Japan, Day 5: Kyoto >> Osaka

Japan, Day 6: Kobe >> Osaka

Japan, Day 7: Himeji >> Osaka

Japan, Day 8: Nara >> Osaka

Japan, Day 9: Universal Studios

Japan, Day 10 (AM): Ise-shima

Japan, Day 10 (PM): Ise-shima

Japan, Day 11: Osaka

Kansai, Day 2: Kyoto (Arashiyama)

We started our 2nd day in Kyoto quite early since our goal was to get to the famous bamboo grove without the big crowd yet.

I finally understood what people meant when they said that photographs were not enough to do justice on how ethereal and beautiful SAGANO BAMBOO GROVE is. Highly recommend to go here really early! Aside from us, there was just a tourist couple so we managed to get good pictures of the place. The place was also quiet which made it perfect for a bit of reflection and relaxation time.

MARCH 7, 2017

We started our 2nd day in Kyoto quite early since our goal was to get to the famous bamboo grove without the big crowd yet. When we got off in Arashiyama Station, there was a sign which exit was for the bamboo grove but we were not sure how to get there by walking. It also started raining so the temperature became too cold to handle (at least for me).

We ended up taking a cab so that we would not risk getting lost – short ride and the driver dropped us near the entrance. The first hundred meters of the bamboo grove got us thinking why people described SAGANO BAMBOO GROVE as majestic because there were electric posts + wires blocking part of the view.

We still walked some more and stumbled upon NONOMIYA-JINJA, which is a shrine dedicated to Amaterasu and the deity of fire.

After spending a few minutes here, we decided to continue our walk along the bamboo grove but we were surprised that it was quite short. We were at the back area of Tenryu-ji and we could not find any more bamboo. We decided to walk some more and finally, we saw the bamboo area captured in most photographs.

I finally understood what people meant when they said that photographs were not enough to do justice on how ethereal and beautiful this place is. Highly recommend to go here really early! Aside from us, there was just a tourist couple so we managed to get good pictures of the place. The place was also quiet which made it perfect for a bit of reflection and relaxation time.

At the end of the path, visitors can also go to OKOCHI SANSO VILLA. Since it was too early and too cold to wait, we retraced our steps to reach the city area. We grabbed some breakfast from Lawson – onigiri, sandwich, hot coffee and tea. We were lucky that it was very near to TOGETSUKYO BRIDGE and there were vacant benches. We ate our breakfast with the bridge and Katsura River in sight.

After eating, we crossed the bridge and explored the park on one side. On the other side, we got a closer and better view of the river. There were also boats offering a cruise along the river, but I think this would be best enjoyed during the spring and fall season. Trees were still bare at the time we visited.

We wanted to buy some local sweets in Arashiyama and we decided to get help in Arashiyama Randen Station. Another surprising discovery we made here was the KIMONO FOREST. A short pathway was lined with cylinder-shaped pillars, which were designed in different colors and patterns. I read a bit more about the place afterwards (read here), and people highly recommend going here during the evening as well as the pillar are lit up.

At the end of the path, we saw a small pond with a sphere designed with a dragon. There was a small sign near the pond that said that if one dips their hands into the water, s/he will feel refreshed and will be blessed with happiness. My hands were too cold already so I did not do this but J and M went ahead since they felt they could still withstand the temperature.

We walked to TENRYU-JI (UNESCO) afterwards and bought tickets for both the garden and buildings in the area.

It is the largest temple in Arashiyama and said to be one of the best Zen temples in Kyoto. Not a surprise because the place is beautiful, and there is a spot in the main hall where one can sit and admire the garden and pond outside.

Before heading back to Kyoto Station, we bought tickets for the SAGANO SCENIC RAILWAY. We were lucky because we only had to wait a few minutes before the special train arrives. The next schedule after ours was an hour later.

We hopped on the retro-looking train when it arrived (seat numbers are assigned upon buying the ticket). It was past 1PM already and since we had not yet eaten lunch, I ate the daifuku I bought from a stall near the bamboo grove entrance.

Flavors (L-R): adzuki, ???, matcha

The ride lasted for about 25 minutes – we passed by scenic views of mountains as well as a good view of the Hozugawa River.

We only bought a one-way ticket so upon arrival at the last station, we walked going to Umahori so that we could catch a train ride back to Kyoto Station. We had our very late lunch in KYOTO RAMEN KOJI, located at the 10F Kyoto Station .

There are 10 ramen shops to choose from and this “street” (koji) boasts of housing shops that serve ramen from different parts of Japan (check out the list of ramen shops here).

Since we had different ramen preferences at that time, we decided to go our separate ways for lunch and meet at the entrance of Kyoto Ramen Koji after eating. I chose HAKATA IKKOUSHA because I was super hungry and I saw that their ramen has huge pork slices. Yay! Securing a seat was not a problem since it was still off-peak hours.

Their hakata ramen tasted really, really good that I finished the whole bowl by myself. This was on top of my additional order of karaage (which I also enjoyed BTW!).

After lunch, J recommended going to Kitano Tenmangu as she saw IG posts that a lot of ume trees there are already in full bloom. We somehow gave up already in seeing sakura so we decided to go there.

KITANO TENMANGU is a shrine dedicated to Sugawara no Michizane, a scholar and politician during the Heian period who is also best known as the “god of academics”. Hence, this is also a shrine where many students visit to pray for their studies and exams.

We also went to the garden of ume trees (with entrance fee but forgot how much), and it did not disappoint at all! I’ll let the pictures below do the talking. 😉

We went home afterwards and bought convenience store food for dinner. Guess we had not yet recovered from the 30,000 steps we did the day before this.

LINKS TO OTHER KANSAI REGION / JAPAN 2017 POSTS:

Japan, Day 0-1: Kyoto (Higashiyama Area)

Japan, Day 3: Kyoto (Fushimi, Northern Higashiyama)

Japan, Day 4: Kyoto (Central & Downtown)

Japan, Day 5: Kyoto >> Osaka

Japan, Day 6: Kobe >> Osaka

Japan, Day 7: Himeji >> Osaka

Japan, Day 8: Nara >> Osaka

Japan, Day 9: Universal Studios

Japan, Day 10 (AM): Ise-shima

Japan, Day 10 (PM): Ise-shima

Japan, Day 11: Osaka